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Sustainability 2014, 6(2), 758-778; doi:10.3390/su6020758

Implementation of Brackish Groundwater Desalination Using Wind-Generated Electricity: A Case Study of the Energy-Water Nexus in Texas

1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 204 East Dean Keeton Street, Stop C2200, Austin, TX 78712, USA 2 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 205 North Mathews Avenue, 2521 Hydrosystems Laboratory, Urbana, IL 61801, USA These authors contributed equally to this work.
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 18 November 2013 / Revised: 13 January 2014 / Accepted: 26 January 2014 / Published: 10 February 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Energy-Sustainability Nexus)
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Growing populations and periodic drought conditions have exacerbated water stress in many areas worldwide. In response, some municipalities have considered desalination of saline water as a freshwater supply. Unfortunately, desalination requires a sizeable energy investment. However, renewable energy technologies can be paired with desalination to mitigate concern over the environmental impacts of increased energy use. At the same time, desalination can be operated in an intermittent way to match the variable availability of renewable resources. Integrating wind power and brackish groundwater desalination generates a high-value product (drinking water) from low-value resources (saline water and wind power without storage). This paper presents a geographically-resolved performance and economic method that estimates the energy requirements and profitability of an integrated wind-powered reverse osmosis facility treating brackish groundwater. It is based on a model that incorporates prevailing natural and market conditions such as average wind speeds, total dissolved solids content, brackish well depth, desalination treatment capacity, capital and operation costs of wind and desalination facilities, brine disposal costs, and electricity and water prices into its calculation. The model is illustrated using conditions in Texas (where there are counties with significant co-location of wind and brackish water resources). Results from this case study indicate that integrating wind turbines and brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO) systems is economically favorable in a few municipal locations in West Texas.
Keywords: brackish groundwater; reverse osmosis; desalination; wind power; economics; policy brackish groundwater; reverse osmosis; desalination; wind power; economics; policy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Clayton, M.E.; Stillwell, A.S.; Webber, M.E. Implementation of Brackish Groundwater Desalination Using Wind-Generated Electricity: A Case Study of the Energy-Water Nexus in Texas. Sustainability 2014, 6, 758-778.

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